『Shirabayashi-kun is missing?』
『That is so.』
Renka stood still, thinking. If Lee Yu-ha, who was always with Baek Cheol-yeon, was this serious, and asking for help, something must be really wrong.
Was he in danger somewhere again, like last time with the vampire professor? On top of that, Renka also thought it was suspicious that Professor Nakamori of otherworld biology had suddenly been knocked out.
At that intuition, bordering on anxiety, Renka muttered in a low voice.
『Yes, My Lady.』
A classmate, Katsurai Osue, appeared behind Renka. Renka turned her head and urgently asked Osue.
『Where is Shirabayashi-san right now?』
『The last time I saw him, he seemed to be rushing to the shrine on campus.』
Why the on-campus shrine? The worship time was already over, so no one would be there anyway. In addition, Renka knew that Baek Cheol-yeon, who had a strong sense of pride for the people of Joseon, would, if anything, think negatively about visiting a Shinto shrine, so he was not someone that would go to one out of his own will.
The fact that he rushed to such a place meant that something bad was happening. Renka told Lee Yu-ha.
『She says that he has gone to the shrine on campus. Let’s go.』
Lee Yu-ha nodded. Renka and Lee Yu-ha passed the torii and went up the stairs but,
There was nobody in the shrine.
To begin with, the area wasn’t very large, so one could tell that there was nobody from just a glance. There was no management personnel at the on-campus shrine, so it was completely deserted after the worship hours were over.
『Osue. Are you sure Shirabayashi-san came here?』
At Renka’s question, Osue answered.
『That is what I have seen. Immediately after witnessing him passing the torii and walking up the stairs, I left to inform you, My Lady……』
Renka thought. It would have been good if Osue had watched him a little longer. However, it was also her who had ordered Osue to report to her immediately if something seemed to be happening, so she couldn’t blame Osue.
『Good. Just in case, you go outside the shrine and search somewhere else. I shall search here.』
『Yes, My Lady.』
Just as she had appeared, Osue disappeared in an instant. After sending Osue off, Renka looked back at Lee Yu-ha.
『Alright. Let’s search here first. If Shirabayashi-san came here in a hurry, there must be some—』
But Lee Yu-ha was, for some reason, staring at Renka with a cold and stiff expression. Why was Lee Yu-ha doing this? Curious, Renka asked Lee Yu-ha.
『……Lee-san? Is there some problem?』
But Lee Yu-ha kept on starting at Renka. Lee Yu-ha was looking at Renka, or rather, at the girl right behind Renka, as she thought.
‘That girl is…….’
Lee Yu-ha knew that girl too. A girl with a small physique and a somber impression, with her bangs covering one side of her face.
She was the girl who supported Lee Yu-ha when she collapsed while fighting Choi Seong-gil, the fake professor, at the temple the other day.
Until just a moment ago, Lee Yu-ha thought she must just be Renka’s friend, but she became curious as she overheard Renka’s conversation with Osue.
Was this girl, Osue, actually a subordinate of Renka, the branch manager of the Shimazu Gumi Gyeongseong Branch and the young Lady of the Shimazu Gumi?
On top of that, this girl was well aware of Baek Cheol-yeon’s whereabouts. Even if she was Renka’s subordinate, this was very suspicious. Lee Yu-ha told Renka, in a cold tone.
『Have you, by any chance, had your subordinate watch him?』
At this question, Renka was actually taken aback.
Normally, she wouldn’t have called for Osue in front of other people. But she had been in such a hurry and made a mistake, very unlike her.
Renka stammered as she denied.
『Should we call it…… surveillance? No. It is different.』
『I have just assigned a person to follow Shirabayashi-san for his safety. After all, I am…… his friend.』
It was a lame excuse, and Renka knew so too. She assigned a person to follow him for his safety? How was this different to surveillance?
Lee Yu-ha’s suspicious and distrust grew stronger as she stared at Renka, and Renka just smiled back at Lee Yu-ha, pretending to be calm.
『Hmm……. Lee-san! Is the important thing right now not Shirabayashi-san’s safety? We should forget about the small details for now, and concentrate in finding—』
Lee Yu-ha called out Renka’s name in a cold, subdued voice and asked.
『Does he also know that you have ordered someone to follow him?』
Of course, Lee Yu-ha had known for a long time that Baek Cheol-yeon and Renka had some kind of friendship. Also, Lee Yu-ha knew that Renka was a member of a prominent Japanese family that was somewhat related to Lee Yu-ha’s ancestors.
But even so, Lee Yu-ha didn’t pay too much attention to this.
‘The bad relationships of our ancestors are only relevant to them, and Baek Cheol-yeon is a person with excellent ability and very sociable.’
It wasn’t strange for someone as capable and sociable as Baek Cheol-yeon to be close to Shimazu Renka, daughter of the Shimazu family and branch manager of the Shimazu Gumi Gyeongseong Branch.
However, aside from the bad relationships their ancestors had, Lee Yu-ha felt a strong suspicion and distrust of Renka. After all, wasn’t it very suspicious for Renka, who was close to Baek Cheol-yeon, to secretly put surveillance on him? On top of that, Renka was twisting her words and denying it with unbelievable words.
As she spoke, a cold breeze blew around Lee Yu-ha, with fine ice crystals forming around.
『Right now, I am suspicious of you, more than anything.』
‘She won’t be suspicious of me anymore.’
I looked at Hong Ok-rye. Still tied up to the chair, she was looking at me with a gaze full of respect, unlike the venom-filled gaze she held initially. Even calling me “comrade”……
I asked Hong Ok-rye.
“Do you act by yourself? What about your peers?”
“There is a group called Taegukdan in Gyeongseong. But it’s just me in this school.”
“Hmm. Taegukdan, is it?”
It was an easy to remember name. And it was fortunate that she was the only one at school. This means I just have to get through to her.
Judging by how she was answering to all my questions, it seemed she completely trusted me now. It would be okay to let her go now.
But there was something I had to make sure of before releasing her.
I pulled out my sword like a lightning bolt and put it to the neck of Hong Ok-rye, who was still tied up.
Hong Ok-rye cried out in confusion at the blade that felt haunted.
I spoke in a solemn voice.
“You learnt about my and Lee Yu-ha’s secret.…… Secrecy is the key to the mission Mr. Kim Gu gave us. We cannot let anyone be aware of it.”
“Yes. Even if it happens to be a fellow countryman who shares our will for the independence movement……. That was Mr. Kim Gu’s order. So I have no choice but to kill you. Do not resent me.”
Hong Ok-rye’s face grew pale. After seeing her reaction, I swung my sword down like a lighting and—
Cut off the ropes that had her tied up.
Hong Ok-rye was taken aback as I sheathed my sword and said in a low voice.
“However, I’ll overlook it this once.”
“Mr. Kim Gu told me to get rid of anyone who found out…… But I cannot bring myself to take my sword against a fellow countryman. So I will let you live.”
I added, lowering my voice to Hong Ok-rye, who seemed deeply moved.
“But keep it in your mind.”
This might look like it’s enough, but not yet. I had brought Lee Yu-ha into this lie, so I had to make sure Hong Ok-rye wouldn’t say anything about this to Lee Yu-ha.
“Unlike me, Lee Yu-ha won’t let you off the hook.”
“If you’ve seen Lee Yu-ha at school, you should know. That girl is a cold-blooded killing machine with no human emotions.”
“Y-Yeah…… You’re right…….”
Hong Ok-rye immediately agreed. Of course she would, after all, Lee Yu-ha’s image made her seem somewhat cold and unapproachable to the other kids except for me.
‘I’m sorry, Lee Yu-ha.’
“So don’t talk about it and don’t get caught by her. The moment you tell Lee Yu-ha that you’re holding independence movements, it will be the same as telling her that you know our secrets.”
“U-Understood! I…… I will be careful! No! I won’t say a word to Lee Yu-ha! Comrade Baek!”
Only then did I approach Hong Ok-rye, who was still frozen, and untied her and helped her up.
‘Did I tie her up too tightly?’
Her wrists and calves were red with traces of having been tied with a rope. I felt a little sorry now that I saw her like this, but I couldn’t help tying her up tightly since she was an Awakened with a strengthening ability.
“Then, let’s go.”
I checked my watch and it was already time for afternoon classes to be over, and the campus was empty. The worship time had long been over as well, so the shrine would probably be closed.
When I opened the warehouse door, the late afternoon sunlight poured in.
But when my vision adjusted and I could see far, I saw two girls standing, confronting each other, looking to where I was.
‘What are they doing here?’
Lee Yu-ha and Renka. More than that, let alone the fact that they were here, I was at a distance but I could feel the movement of mana.
They had raised their mana against each other.
Lee Yu-ha was the first one to break the silence and open her mouth. Lee Yu-ha asked me.
“I hath been searching for thee because you disappeared after we saw Professor Jungsam (Nakamori), but why art thou here?”
I heard hiccupping from behind me. It was Hong Ok-rye. Since she had believed what I had told her earlier, she seemed to be surprised as soon as she saw Lee Yu-ha.
Anyway, was the reason that Lee Yu-ha and Renka here right now was because they thought something happened when I suddenly disappeared.
I looked back at Hong Ok-rye behind me. Of course, I couldn’t just tell them the truth. I patted Hong Ok-rye on the shoulder and said.
“She said that the best way to wake up someone that’s fainted is to pay! That’s why we came to the campus shrine! Professor Nakamori is Japanese, so I thought it would be more effective to pray at a Shinto shrine! Right?”
“Y-Yeah! He’s right!”
Hong Ok-rye supported my words. I continued.
“Of course, since there were many other professors and students there, someone would have woken Professor Nakamori up, but, even if it’s just a superstition, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pray!”
“Y-Yeah, yeah! My mother would pray for me every time I’m sick, as well……”
Hong Ok-rye continued to support my words as best as she could, but Lee Yu-ha tilted her head and looked at me again, asking.
“But why in the warehouse……?”
“That’s because, hmm……! The set worship time is over, right? We were praying in secret, but we thought we heard someone coming so we hid!”
“So that was it…….”
Only then did Lee Yu-ha nod. The she touched her daenggi hair and continued.
“……That, I, thou disappeared so suddenly so I thought something very bad had happened to thee. I am glad it is not.”
“Yeah! I’m sorry I suddenly disappeared without saying anything!”
“I am fine. It was me who was rather hasty……”
She believed me. I felt at ease.
As soon as I returned to the boarding house, I sighed. That was an eventful day.
I had stopped Hong Ok-rye, the mystery gasmask girl, from committing terror attacks on campus, and persuaded her not to be a threat to me anymore,
After making sure Hong Ok-rye wouldn’t speak, I went out and was taken aback by Lee Yu-ha and Renka’s presence, but at least they had believed my excuse without a word.
‘A person has to behave well at all times.’
I had been so trustworthy that they believed me even thought I lied……!
‘Anyway, that problem is solved.’
Now it was really time to focus on school. I had felt this for a long time, but if I planned on graduating in time I would have to put in a lot of effort in my theory classes, as well as the practice classes.
Since I entered this school, I had often skipped classes due to various incidents and had not been able to fully concentrate on my classes, but now I could concentrate on my studies with peace of mind.
‘Now it’s study, and only study.’
With this new determination engraved into my mind, I crawled into my futon and fell asleep comfortably.
‘I think that is not everything, Shirabayashi-san.’
That night, at Renka’s house.
Renka walked around the garden, recalling what happened at school that day.
The moment she saw Baek Cheol-yeon at the shrine. Renka, who heard Baek Cheol-yeon explain to Lee Yu-ha in Joseon language, quietly opened her mouth.
『I will not tell you not to speak in Joseon, but could you speak in the national language so I can understand?』
When Renka asked to get explained to about what had happened, Baek Cheol-yeon explained what she had told Lee Yu-ha again in Japanese so she could understand.
『…That’s what happened. Do you understand now?』
Listening to Baek Cheol-yeon’s explanation, Renka thought.
‘Shirabayashi-san, you are lying.’
The explanation that he had gone to the Shinto shrine for Professor Nakamori who had fainted. However, Renka knew that Baek Cheol-yeon hadn’t gone to the shrine for that reason.
Contrary to what had worried her, it was definitely fortunate that he wasn’t in any kind of danger. However, Renka immediately noticed that Baek Cheol-yeon’s words, claiming he had “come to the shrine to pay”, were false.
First of all, Baek Cheol-yeon, who had a strong sense of national pride, wouldn’t pay at a shrine, but even this aside—
Although Lee Yu-ha hadn’t noticed, Renka, who had a keen eye, noticed that Baek Cheol-yeon seemed to be taken aback, and she also noticed the clear rope marks on left on the wrists and ankles of that unnamed girl.
Renka recalled the shabby shrine warehouse that was there and thought.
‘……What did you do in there……?’
In that empty warehouse that no one even went into, what perversion did a man and woman commit in such a place?
Renka felt herself blushing as she imagined this far.
Renka, too, had heard before, of course, that “a man has another brain three inches below his belly button”. It wasn’t for her to meddle no matter what hobby he had or who he hung out with.
However, to think that Baek Cheol-yeon, someone she thought was a straight and upright person, had such a hobby. Renka could feel the image of Baek Cheol-yeon she had in her mind shaking.
That night, Renka couldn’t sleep until late and finally fell asleep late at night.
A black-haired girl running through a dark forest.
She was wearing a white dress that contrasted her long black hair, but the white dress was muddy in spots, and she was running through the woods barefoot.
Her eyes looked filled with fright. Behind her, in the dark, something was chasing her.
『Hahahaha! My Lady! My Lady! Please take me with you!』
The black-haired girl closed her eyes, and ran away while shaking her head. Behind her, something still shouted as it got closer and closer.
『My Lady, you are an adult now, so you must know! The great cause reserved for the GEACPS (note: Short for Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere)……!』
The girl ended up tripping on a rock and falling. Unable to get back up, she stayed on the ground, hands over her ears, shouting.
『Okaasan(mom)! Okaasan! Save me!』
『Everyone, where are you all……!』
Towards the defenseless girl, a huge hand finally emerged from the darkness.
『Then, you shall become and adult with me!』
Right at the moment the hand tried to swallow the girl,
A strong sunlight appeared, and the black and dark forest became a forest of white. There, as if through magic, appeared someone riding a white horse.
He lifted his sword, slaughtered the hand without showing any mercy, got off his horse and approached the girl. And the man lifted the girl in his arms.
And then suddenly, she was tied up with ropes. The girl looked up, in a daze, at the face of the man who was lifting her in his arms, and opened her mouth.
Chirp, chirp, chirp…….
Out of the window came the sound of birds singing in the garden, and Renka, who had just woken up on her bed, sat in a daze for a while with her hair disheveled,
She thought with an expression full of confusion, as she couldn’t understand this herself.
‘Why did I have such a dream……?’
You can rate this series here